JOHANNESBURG — Jailed African National Congress leader Nelson R. Mandela confirmed Monday that he met with President Pieter W. Botha last week and told his wife that the government version of the meeting was "fairly accurate," a family spokesman said.
Mandela has requested official permission for public distribution of his own statement on the unprecedented encounter, the spokesman said.
Accompanied by Mandela's wife, Winnie, at a news conference, South African Council of Churches General Secretary Frank Chikane said the black majority's most powerful symbol of opposition to apartheid confirmed that a meeting did take place Wednesday, but added:
"However, he (Mandela) said, in order to deal with some speculation that has arisen, he will soon release a statement that will put the meeting and the discussions in a proper context."
Then he added: "Mr. Mandela remains a prisoner of the South African government and is therefore not free to propagate his ideas. We do not know whether what he has to say will reach the public without being tampered with."
A Prisons Service spokesman had no immediate comment on whether a statement from Mandela would be released or when.
After meeting with her husband for 80 minutes on a prison farm outside Cape Town, Mrs. Mandela said: "This was not an ordinary family visit. We were sent by the community."
The statement issued Monday night said Mandela, who turns 71 next week, "asked us to convey to the people that he is in good health and values their support at all times."
The Botha-Mandela meeting took the anti-apartheid movement by surprise. Mandela's wife had said Sunday that she was not aware of the meeting until after it happened.
It is illegal to quote Mandela in South Africa, but people who have met with him in recent years have conveyed his thoughts.
The Pretoria government Monday called the meeting between Botha and Mandela a "very positive step" but did not say whether the jailed black leader would be released soon, a newspaper reported.